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The Flesh and the Devil by Teresa Denys

Description: Historical Romance. Like a Rembrandt, dark with a patina of years and other world. A young woman is entangled in a web of Machiavellian plots in 1700s Spain.

Reading this book was a sad and strange thing. I first read a book by Teresa Denys, The Silver Devil, some twenty years ago and was so beguiled that I have been looking for more ever since.

This last month, I was finally able buy an out of print hardcover copy. At the same time, I read that Ms. Denys died several years ago. So, it was strange and sad to finish this quest and know that this was it.

The Flesh and the Devil is much slower paced and somewhat more scattered than The Silver Devil. However, in many ways the books comment on one another in more than just their titles. Each book has its mad dukes and devilish heroes and feisty child-women and dark, dark atmosphere that smells of dust and period and time.

This is not a book for the timid. It is not a book of roses and sunshine. It is about hard times and horrible choices. The characters are compelling, but not necessarily likable. It is about being a woman in a period when your very clothing hampered and constrained and shaped your every action. Being a woman in a world in which you could not bend at the waist because of your corset. A world where women wore layers of hot velvet and petticoats and stockings in the hot Spanish summer. A life in a highly stratified, constrained society.

Throughout the book, the ani-hero Felipe (well, you canít call him heroic) keeps saying that the heroine, Juana, is choosing what she wants, but thatís not really true. This is a book about living through experience and growing into a person who can make choices and understand consequences.

 For those who have the good fortune to find a copy, and who enjoy books that feel as if they were written in the period when they take place, this book is well worth a read.

I am only saddened that this wonderful author will never be able to write another book.


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